By ANTHONY VARGAS
The government is reviewing its position on stalled peace talks with communist rebels following “intelligence reports” that exiled leaders led by Jose Ma. Sison are no longer in control of the movement, Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales said Sunday.
“The government is thinking whether it should continue with the peace-talks because of reports that Joma Sison is no longer representative of the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines),” Gonzales said in a statement.
“We have been talking with [the group of] Joma Sison, but apparently he has been ousted (by his comrades in the Philippines) as the top leader of the CPP,” he added. “We have information that the Tiamzon couple is now the leaders of the communist movement. But we don’t know where they are.”
“Even the Norwegian government that has hosted the peace talks between the Philippine government and the communist movement is [also] reviewing its position,” he claimed.
Norway is the third-party facilitator of the peace negotiations with the communists.
Gonzales’ statement was basically a reiteration of his earlier claim of another supposed split in the communist movement, between factions led by Sison and the couple Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.
The CPP has debunked Gonzales’ claims.
With the supposed ouster of Sison, Gonzales said the government would push for an “extensive peace talks” with the New People’s Army (NPA) at the grassroots.
“We should now talk to all NPA combatants as many of them now want to normalize their lives,” he said, explaining this would be more fruitful than negotiating with the exiled rebel leaders based in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
“The end game of the communist leaders in Ultrecht is coalition governance without election. They will never sign any peace agreement with us unless and until we agree to their demand for coalition governance,” Gonzales claimed. “This is unacceptable because it is unconstitutional.”
He said he has appealed to Catholic bishops to lead talks with the rebels at the grassroots.